Collection of Letters: Detail
- Adam, abbot of Perseigne
To his beloved and particularly loved, always to be loved in Christ, Blanche, illustrious countess of Champagne, brother A[dam], servant of the servants of God who serve Christ at Perseigne, sends greetings, and to always have a devout desire for those things which are of God.
The devotion of your love, daughter, urgently requested that I send you a transcription of my little sermons and you seemed to ask with strong desire. It is a worthy petition deserving of praise, if you can understand what is said in Latin or if they are said in a way that can be of edifying benefit to you. It is for this, I think, that you ask for those sermons, so that edified by a reading of them you may progress since you may have missed something while they were being spoken. Know, daughter, that the meaning of any saying, if it is translated from one tongue to another, barely will its savor or composition remain in a pilgrim/foreign language. For when a liquid is poured from a vessel, it is somewhat altered either in color, or in taste and odor. Truly in whatever ways I can, I will attend to your edification from my soul wishing that you will attend to the catholic exhortations and what is said so studiously that you will find grace before God and men.
Truly, there are four things necessary to obtaining grace, which it would be fitting that you swiftly pursue having in the space of your heart:
First the righteousness of a non-doubting faith which when it makes you orthodox will illumine you by true knowledge to recognize and avoid errors and whatever deceits. Righteousness of faith, since God is believed [to be] what is true, and the highest good for the mind is to be united to him, that is to be made truly a member of Christ, to be adopted a son of God. Only those who believe in God receive the spirit of adoption and because of this, when they are incorporated in Christ they are not undeservedly called sons of adoption. “No one,” the Apostle says, “who believes in him will be put to shame” [Rom.10:11]. And it is far from doubt that to believe in him is to show oneself inwardly removed from works of shame. If you held this righteousness of faith, you would be deemed to be among the sons of God and therefore you would become heirs of God and coheirs of Christ and you will, as he said, never for eternity die. He said “who believes in me will never die” [John 11:26]. Indeed the passing of the sons of God from this life is truly not death, but rather is called birth, since in their passing they are stripped of mortal bodies and reborn to the refreshment of true life.
Second, the innocence of habits, which while the ministry of faith is repaired through confession and penance, it is thenceforth delegated to the most protective guardianship of the fear of God. Clearly the sollicitude of fear is happy which strives skillfully to obey the faith and does not neglect to punish what is lost by penance, and attends to the reparation of innocence, while with all vigilance it guards ... of them. Therefore fear is born of faith; since unless one believed, what would one fear? From fear, penance is born; since, unless fear of punishment influenced the mind, who would curb his excesses? “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebr.10:31]. While faithful fear presses and strikes such dread into the assiduous heart, it chooses to correct itself from its guilt by penance rather than to reserve that guilt for punishment at the hands of the living God. Thus while penance is being carried out, while the mind, pricked and stung through the function of fear, confesses that it has consumed badly, while injury is covered, innocence is restored, and so habits are made good, as with certain harms excluded, they begin to be innocent.
You see, daughter, that from the faith by which God is believed, all iniquity is excluded from the soul, war with depraved vices and desires is proclaimed which, although they are unwanted in us, nonetheless must be resisted, lest they dominate. “Let sin not,” as the Apostle says, “reign in our mortal body” [Rom.6:12]. He did not prohibit the presence of sin but proclaimed that it should not have rule or domination over us. So if we nonetheless feel vices and desires to be present in us, but we do not consent to them, we have no damnation from them in Christ Jesus. For as long as we feel and deny consent, so long we triumph over them with the help of God: for to consent is to succumb and lose innocence, which, as long as we bear their struggle, having denied consent, so long we guard it through the grace of God.
From the innocence of habits follows the justice of actions, which we grant third place as necessary to implement the grace of God. For we said above that there are four which are necessary to acquire and preserve the grace of God. The last two are justice of works/actions and perserverance of virtues: justice is not only showing justice for injuries inflicted on one in fear of God and Gehenna, but also the virtue of that justice which God ordered for all, to obey faithfully and filially. It pertains to this justice to convey the fruit of actions, whether thirtieth, sixtieth, or hundredth, according to what holy seed fell on good earth. But is holy seed not faith, by which God is believed in? Is the good earth not innocence of habits which is diligently built by the function of holy fear? Thence comes that triple fruit, namely the thirtieth which is understood in fidelity of conjugal chastity, the sixtieth, which is the fruit of widowed continence; and the hundredth, which virginal excellence offers. The thirtieth and sixtieth fruit is demanded of you; since you lived faithful in marriage and now have reached the freedom of widowed continence. Of the hundredth fruit which virginity makes, I say nothing to you though I am not unaware that you had a most fervent desire for such a thing before the bond of marriage. He who judges by the will, may make that intention most fruitful for you, since you were unwillingly led from it, compelled by the counsels of friends. Act therefore, recover the rewards in carrying out the fruits of the thirtieth and sixtieth, though you have accomplished less towards the hundredth. Pursue works of justice, with God showing [the way] either yourself by penance or attending filially to fulfilling his mandates and judgments.
Note that the exercize of this justice is quadriform: first, in observation of holy reading; second, in the study of holy meditation; third, in the practice of devout prayer; fourth, in religious sollicitude of active conversation/behavior. Holy reading is like a mirror of what you should do; in the study of meditation you seek and find what manner you should have in doing. The practice of prayer obtains heavenly help in doing. Active conversation trusting in the help of God undertakes good work. These four, carried into usage and custom, lead the purified soul to heavenly contemplation.
But alas! what is contemplation of heavenly things to you whom the sea of worldly vanity almost completely sank through the occasion of an earthly and transitory rule? Elaboration of clothes, damnable in a widow, superfluity of food, numbers of courses, multiplicity of assemblies, pomp of horsemen, despoiling of the poor, multifarious bowings of the obsequious, the unpunished perfidy of the cupidity of Jews, criminal permission for usury, busy turbulence in the judgments of litigants, which are all contrary to divine justice and salvation of the soul, if you took care to remove from yourself when placed in this position, you would suffer the mockery and reproaches of men. What is therefore more unhappy than to remain against conscience there where one is of necessity put in peril, and to knowingly hold transitory things which daily flee and in their flight either diminish or exstinguish the love of eternity in the soul.
Think, therefore, my dearest, think often about justice of works and perseverance of virtues, since he alone reaches the port of salvation who perseveres in justice of works and patience of virtues. For good earth so brings fruit in patience when innocence of habits receives the seed of faith and makes good fruits the works of justice, and advances and brings those fruits to the crown of eternal retribution by perseverance through patience. For the rest, most loved one, I send my sermons to you in this book whatever they are, which you asked for so strongly, so that if you use them and they confer some improvement on you, you may because of them remember the one who loves you. Hail.
Dilectae et praedilectae, semperque in Christo diligendae B. illustri comitissae Campaniae, frater A. servus servorum Dei, qui apud Perseniam Christo serviunt, salutem, et ad ea quae Dei sunt devotam semper gerere voluntatem.
Instanter, filia, tuae dilectionis devotio postulavit, quatenus sermunculos meos tibi transcriptos dirigerem, et hoc quippe ex multo desiderio deposcere videbaris. Digna plane et laudanda petitio, si quae Latine dicta sunt per te posses intelligere, aut si eo modo dicta essent, quo ex eis tibi posset aedificationis beneficium provenire. Ad hoc enim, ut arbitro, sermones ipsos expostulas, ut ex eorum lectione aedificata, proficias, dummodo tibi interdum forte vacanti ab aliquo exponantur. Scito, filia, quod sententia cujuslibet dicti, si de lingua in linguam translata fuerit, vix in peregrino idiomate, sua ei sapiditas vel compositio remanebit. Liquor enim cum de vase transfunditur, aut in colore, aut in sapore, et odore aliquatenus alteratur. Verum quibuscunque modis possem, tuae ex animo aedificationi intenderem, et utinam tu catholicis exhortationibus et his quae dicta sunt, tam studiose intenderes, ut coram Deo et hominibus gratiam invenires. Sane ad id gratiae obtinendum quatuor esse necessaria liquet, quibus habendis cito cordis ambitu te insistere oporteret.
Primum est fidei non dubiae rectitudo: quae cum te orthodoxam reddiderit, ad cognoscendos et devitandos errores et figmenta quaelibet vera te scientia illustrabit. Rectitudo fidei est, cum et Deus creditur quod verax sit, et mente ereditur quod summum bonum sit, quod est illi uniri, quod est vere Christi membrum effici, vere in Dei filium adoptari. Soli qui in Deum credunt, spiritum adoptionis recipiunt, ac per hoc, dum Christo incorporantur, adoptionis non immerito filii appellantur. Omnis, inquit Apostolus, qui credit in illum, non confundetur [Rom.X]. Et procul dubio in illum credere est se a confusionis operibus penitus extraneis exhibere. Si tenueris hanc rectitudinem fidei, reputaberis inter filios Dei, ac per hoc haeres Dei et cohaeres Christi efficieris, et nullatenus in aeternum, sicut ab ipso dictum est: Morieris. Qui credit, inquit, in me, non morietur in aeternum [Joan.XI]. Filiorum quippe Dei transitus ex hac vita non vere est mors, sed magis natalis dicitur, quia in transitu suo a mortalibus exuti corporibus, ad verae vitae refrigerium renascuntur.
Secundum, est innocentia morum, quae dum ministratio fidei per confessionem et poenitentiam reparatur, tutissime deinceps divini timoris custodiae delegatur. Felix plane sollicitudo timoris, quae, dum fidei obedire solerter satagit, et punire quod amissum est per poenitentiam non omittit, et ad reparationem intendit innocentiae, dum omni vigilantia ... eorum custodit. Igitur de fide timor nascitur; quia, nisi crediderit, quid timeret? De timore poenitentia nascitur; quia, nisi timor poenae mentem afficeret, quis se de suis excessibus emendaret? Horrendum quippe est incidere in manus Dei viventis [Hebr.X]; quem horrorem dum menti assidue fidelis timor inculcat et incutit, eligit se potius de suis reatibus poenitendo corrigere, quam ipsos reatus puniendos Dei viventis manibus reservare. Sic dum poenitentia agitur, dum per timoris officium mens puncta et compuncta, quod male absorbuerat confitetur; dum tegitur noxa, restituitur innocentia, et sic boni efficiuntur mores, dum exclusis quibuslibet noxiis, incipiunt esse innocentes. Vides, filia, quia de fide qua in Deum creditur, iniquitas ab animo omnis excluditur, bellum vitiis desideriisque pravis indicitur, quae, etsi sentiuntur in nobis invitiis, nihilominus obsistendum est eis, ne saltem valeant dominari. Non regnet, ut ait Apostolus, peccatum in nostro mortali corpore [Rom.VI]. Peccatum quidem inesse non prohibuit, sed ne regnum, vel dominationem habeat in nobis indixit. Si itaque inesse in nobis vitia et desideria nihilominus sentimus, sed non consentimus, nihil ex his in Christo Jesu damnationis habemus. Quandiu enim sentimus et consensum negamus, tandiu de illis cum Dei adjutorio triumphamus: consentire enim est succumbere et amittere innocentiam, quam tandiu per Dei gratiam custodimus, quandiu, negato eis consensu, eorum certamina toleramus.
De innocentia morum sequitur justitia operum, quam necessariam esse ad operandam Dei gratiam loco tertio collocamus; quatuor enim supra esse diximus, quibus necessario Dei gratia acquiritur et servatur. Duo postrema operum justitia, et perseverantia virtutum: justitia est non modo metu gehennae de se Deo pro illatis sibi injuriis justitiam exhibere, sed etiam est virtus ipsius justitiae omnibus quae praecipit Deus, fideliter et filialiter obedire. Ad hanc justitiam pertinet operum afferre fructum, aliud trigesimum, aliud sexgesimum, aliud centesimum, secundum quod in bonam terram ceciderit semen sanctum. An non semen sanctum est fides, qua in Deum creditur? An non innocentia morum bona terra est, quae sancti timoris officio diligenter extollitur. Inde provenit ille triplex fructus, tricesimus scilicet qui intelligitur in fidelitate castimoniae conjugalis, et sexagesimus, qui fructus est continentiae vidualis; et centesimus, quem profert excellentia virginalis. Tricesimus et sexagesimus fructus a te exigitur; quia et fidelis in conjugio exstitisti, et nunc ad libertatem vidualis continentiae pervenisti. Ex centesimo fructu quem facit virginitas, nihil interim tibi dico, qui tamen ante vinculum conjugii te tantae rei ferventissimum habuisse desiderium non ignoro: ille qui de voluntatibus judicat, propositum illum tibi faciat fructuosissimum; licet ab ipso nolens deducta sis compulsa consiliis amicorum. Age ergo, recompensanda recupera, in excecutione fructus tricesimi et sexagesimi, qui interim minus de centesimo peregisti. Insiste operibus justitiae, sive de te, Deo exhibente, justitiam poenitendo, sive mandatis et justificationibus ejus adimplendis filialiter intendendo.
Nota quod hujus justitiae quadriforme est exercitium: primum, est in inspectione sacrae lectionis; secundum, est in studio sacrae meditationis; terium, est in instantia devotae orationis; quartum, est in religiosa sollicitudine activae conversationis. Sacra lectio tanquam speculum intendit quid tibi sit faciendum; in studio meditationis quaeris et invenis quem in faciendo teneas modum. Instantia orationis impetrat coelitus faciendi adjutorium. Activa conversatio de Dei confidens adjutorio aggreditur opus bonum. Quatuor ista traducta ferunt in usum et consuetudinem, purificatum perducunt animum ad coelestium contemplationem. Sed heu! quid tibi et coelestium contemplationi, quam per occasionem terreni et transitorii principatus totum pene mundanae vanitatis demersit pelagus? Hinc damnabilis in vidua curiositas vestium, sumptuum superfluitas, numerositas ferculorum, collectarum multiplicitas, pompa equitantium, pauperum spoliatio, multifaria declinatio obsequentium, cupiditatis intuitu impunita perfidia Judaeorum, scelerata licentia feneratorum, assidua tumultuatio in judiciis litigantium, quae omnia quantumlibet sint contraria divinae justitiae et saluti animae, si in hoc statu posita, a te amovere curaveris, derisiones et opprobria hominum patieris. Quid est igitur infelicius, quam ibi contra conscientiam remorari ubi necesse est periclitari, et scienter tenere transitoria, quae et quotidie fugiunt, et fugiendo in animo amorem aeternitatis aut minuunt, aut exstinguunt.
Cogita igitur, charissima mea, cogita saepius de justitia operum et de perseverantia virtutum, quia ille solus ad portum salutis applicat, qui in justitia operum et virtutum patientia perseverat. Sic enima bona terra fructum affert in patientia cum innocentia morum semen fidei suscipit et bonos fructus opera justitiae facit, et eosdem fructus ad retributionis aeternae coronam perseverantia per patientiam promovet et perducit. Caeterum, amantissima, meos in hoc libro transmitto tibi sermones, qualescunque sint, quos tantopere postulasti, ut si eis usa fueris, et aliquam tibi conferant meliorationem, et per occasionem ipsorum tuum in memoriam habeas dilectorem.
Adam sends the countess the sermons she had asked for along with an exposition of the four things which are necessary to merit grace and reminders of the difficulty of achieving it in a position of power in the world. Adam was the confessor of Blanche’s mother-in-law, Marie. He died c.1221. Jean Bouvet, who edited and translated some of Adam’s letters, though not this one, dates it after 1201 (Adam de Perseigne, Lettres [Paris: Du Cerf, 1960], 34).
PL 211, c.691-94